"Greedy bankers": a facebook argument preserved for posterity

WSM posters, Dublin

By popular demand, a facebook argument over the pictured posters.

weeler: Recessions are inherent in the boom bust cycle of capital, "greedy bankers" are a scapegoat distracting from the fact that this will happen again and again and again. Blaming them implies you could have a nicer capitalism with good bankers, this is social democracy at best.

Choccy: embarrassing

Jack: When they bullied you until you quit WSM you thought their poster designs would go downhill, BUT WHO IS LAUGHING NOW, WEELERS?

weeler: Be nice, I will bear the brunt of any anti-wsm sentiment posted here and I was even drinking with them last night.

Choccy: remember when he was FULL WSM LEADER OF THE WORLD?

Jack: Sorry weeler. sad

The posters are good stuff.

Anon: um, can we borrow a few of those for ova here in toronto?? i think they will be warmly received.

WSM #1:

Jack: lol because the Sparts criticise stuff as well. Good stuff.

weeler: If you criticise our social democratic propaganda that fails to place the blame on capital then you are the sparts, except dont you have a subscription to that paper WSM#1? wink

Joseph Kay: fuck me. i had a big argument on ABC about this a year ago after that leaflet by everyone's favourite scottish platformist made a leaflet blaming "the financial elite of wealthy bankers"... WSM sad

Joseph Kay:^ i was labelled a spart then too, fwiw. seems like the new reflexive dismissal of choice.

weeler: Jack called me a Spart in 2006. You never forget these things. Ironic though, considering the IBT had a decent position on Lisbon.


weeler: I would have critical support for the WSM, I think there are still working classing elements that can be salvaged with the right leadership wink

WSM #1: On Charlatans, Imposters and Mountebanks

This latest poster from the Irish wokers solidarity movement clearly shows that their dash to the comfortable confines of bourgeois politics continues unabated. As we argued a year ago 'The road from Leftist opportunism to national chauvanism is a short one. The ostentially revolutionary WSM has once again... Read more revealed its retreat at from class politics and it's embrace of bourgeois norms'. Today, we reiterate this statement as the WSM continues to fashion its Kautskist nose for the international working class. It behoves all true internationalists to expose these imposters by penetrating their cloak of revolutionary verbiage and illuminating the chauvinist core underneath.

weeler: Nah, you wish WSM#1. Read the posters and heed the words on the posters.

Joseph Kay: the sparts criticise the WSM
other people criticise the WSM
ergo all critics of the WSM are sparts

GREEDY Bankers, and profiteers are RESPONSIBLE for LOGIC!... Read more


Jack: Ironically, amalgamation is a favoured technique of the Sparts.

Jack: Still, it's pretty fun. "It is up to you – and the rest of the Irish people – to decide what kind of society we want. But legal experts have warned that our wishes could be simply overruled if the Lisbon Treaty is passed.

That's because attached to the Treaty of Lisbon is a Charter of Rights that it is legally binding on all member states including Ireland. Lisbon makes us all citizens of a new EU super-state and the Charter gives the EU Court the power to decide laws and social policies for all citizens - including the Irish people.

So, if Lisbon passes, the wishes of the Irish people can be overruled on important areas such as the right to life, marriage and adoption, raising children, the right to strike, euthanasia, and on other important issues.... Read more

That's how much power the Charter of Rights attached to the treaty gives to the EU Court of Justice. We'd all be EU citizens, in a new EU super-state, and the EU Court would have the right to decide if we should make abortion available, or if we should keep the right to trial by jury, or if we should introduce euthanasia etc.

The Irish government has tried to re-assure Irish voters by saying they have obtained assurances from the EU in regard to abortion and other ethical issues. But those assurances are not legally binding since they are not part of EU law.

So the government then said they would get a protocol on abortion attached to a treaty in the future (maybe in 2011) which would be legally binding. But what they are not telling voters is that any such protocol would be open to challenge in the EU Court because of the immense power of the Charter of Rights. It would be up to the EU Court to decide whether the Charter can overrule our Constitution and any protocol on abortion. Since the EU Court has already found in the Grogan case that abortion is merely a service this bodes badly for Irish pro-life laws.

The fact is despite the so-called guarantees, the European Courts of Justice, not the Irish people, will have the right to decide our values."

weeler: This isnt about lisbon jack, its about WSM giving capitalism a get out clause on the crisis by blaming it on "greedy bankers".

weeler: also, here is a link to the WSM banner -

Jack: Just pointing out where amalgation technique gets you. The "acting like Sparts" line is the same method as used by the Irish establishment to conflate all opposition to Lisbon with Coir mentalness.

weeler: I see what you did now.

Jack: Good stuff

Joseph Kay: in the ABC thread a year ago all i got was a torrent of spart amalgams and 'what would you write then? how would you get an anarchist communist critique of capitalism into a leaflet?'; then i posted up the leaflet we'd done and it killed the thread: http://anarchistblackcat.org/viewtopic.php?p=23215#p23215

weeler: Cant read that site, fully banned, even though I bought sovietpop two whitebeers on sat, theres no bribing some people.

weeler: "So who is to blame? Pinning the blame on greedy bankers or a few bad apples lets the real culprits off the hook. This is not just a financial crisis, but a crisis of the whole economy in which the whole business and political class is fully implicated.

Boom and bust is as much a fact of the economy as getting up for work in the morning. During ... Read morethe boom we were told to sit tight and wait for the 'trickle down' of wealth. Low wages boosted profits, but hit consumer spending and economic growth. The 'answer' was cheap consumer credit."

Joseph Kay: yup that's the ultra-left irrelevance in question.

Anon: Here is a WSM link.


Joseph Kay:

WSM#2: Because the correct line has *always* been effective in uniting the working class!

Joseph Kay: ok, so the WSM's entire praxis is based on being a tight, unified specifically political organisation of anarchists that can serve as a leadership of ideas for the wider class. isn't that somewhat neutered if you don't care about the quality of those ideas? I mean even if the proletariat was actually united behind the scapegoating of "greedy bankers" (Gordon Brown's line, incidentally), how would that further the struggle for anarchist communism?

it's all gone srs bizniss sad

WSM#2:The poster isn't grossly wrong. They weren't responsible for the recession in an individual way, the bubble is an emergent behaviour of self-interested actors in a market. Obviously the position of the WSM is that capitalism is the fundamental problem and cycles are fundamental as you'd know if you saw any of the many WSM presentations on the ... Read morematter.

However, they (the bankers-developers-fianna failers trifecta) are *personally* and *collectively* responsible for the cuts and the way in which they are inacted. This is something with real severe effects on people and their material needs that can be reversed in the here and now.

The thing about doing stuff, Joseph, is that sometimes you do it wrong. But you wouldn't know about that wink

WSM#2:Hilariously, Kay, you also fall into scapegoating in your leaflet:

"This was their policy to try and cheat the boom and bust cycle, and they expect us to pay. Just think how many billions are available at the drop of a hat to bail-out the banks with nationalisations, when we... Read more’re told our demands for wage rises or better public services are always 'unaffordable'…"

The obvious connotation being that more responsible politicians not trying to cheat the boom-bust cycle would have avoided the problem. *snicker*

Joseph Kay: well, if you ignore the bit where it says...

"Boom and bust is as much a fact of the economy as getting up for work in the morning. (...) It's clear the real division isn't between private and state ownership, but between the needs of ordinary people and the needs of the economy."

class struggle anarchists in 'scapegoating' whole capitalist system and entire ruling class shocker! but nice try.

Joseph Kay: but aye, I am not in the WSM, ergo I do nothing, exist in a bubble of theoretical purity removed from practical falsification and am just like a spart sad

weeler: People in the street arent going to see the WSM presentations all they will see is the idea that "greedy bankers" are to blame. This is not what revolutionaries should be telling people, they ought to be contesting the idea that this was caused by "greedy bankers" which is put forward by capitalists to rebuild confidence in the system. Terence ... Read moreWheelock wasnt murdered by a few bad apples and you would never argue that to be populist, its systematic and we both know it. The thing about doing things wrong is when people point it out you can close ranks and start making accusations about them and try to argue that your wrong position was in a way right, or you can suck it up and accept that an organisation of 60 people somehow didnt catch the serious error in these posters.

WSM#2: Obviously 60 people in a volunteer organisation is difficult to manage. Keeping everything very much "on-point" requires quite a lot of editorial capacity. Something which is easier if you have a tiny propaganda group or a party cadre. We've a long way to go yet to work this out, however we're attempting to.

If you're honest about it though, ... Read morecomparing us to the sparts has nothing to do with the message, but rather you view it as an opportunity to take the piss and reinforce your moral certitude in your decision to leave.

You may well be right that the WSM will drift into irrelevance in the face of an incapacity to act in a manner supportive of the class. If one had to take odds on such a thing, one would obviously bet against an effect by a rag-tag group of 50 anarchists attempting to forge a new understanding of organisation. Indeed just doing *something* can often be retro-grade activity. However, pure propaganda or inaction has never amounted to anything. When SolFed has a syndicate, I'll stop laughing at them for pretending to be syndicalists.

weeler: You're going to reap the whirlwind on that last bit in fairness, and rightly so.

I could honestly see this rhetoric on election material for one of our young Labour party comrades.

Joseph Kay: tbh WSM#2 the digs at SolFed are basically an admission you're can't defend the 'greedy bankers' nonsense. i mean i thought weeler was making it up to parody the WSM and was genuinely surprised the posters are real.

SolFed have put out shit propaganda too, and when we're called on it i'll hold my hands up and make efforts internally to see it doesn't happen again.

what i wouldn't do is reflexively accuse the critic of being like a spart, being an ultra-left irrelevantist, doing nothing and so on. robust criticism is part and parcel of revolutionary politics and it strengthens our ideas and practice. ... Read more

i really don't get why you guys are so defensive. i mean if you set yourself up as a leadership of ideas (a concept i don't really have a problem with for a specifically anarchist political group), you're gonna have to expect to deal with criticisms and be able to refute them rather than just launching an ad hominem offensive.

Jack: A member of the WSM attacking another organisation for inaction is fucking amazing.

weeler: Isn't there a code of conduct?

WSM#3: So after rowing with Wheeler about that poster last night I decided to look up this thread - X has already made most of the posts I would have. I think the reason 'spart like' come up (I said the same last night) is that the methodology of attack on the WSM here is that of the sparts, ie you said X therefore you must mean Y and this means Z. ... Read moreThis method is not 'robust criticism' its empty point scoring - its very unlikely the method will be seen as valid by those your critiquing, its just designed for rhetorical appeal to the perceived audience.

An actual 'robust criticism' would be one not based non taking one line off a bit of agit prop but of an examination of the WSM detailed analysis of the recession and its causes, see the archive at http://www.wsm.ie/recession It's no co-incide that the mass ranks of Anyone But the WSM on libcom have never engaged in that sort of genuine 'robust criticism' burt rather constantly seek out leaflet headlines, poster slogans and yes even graphics used.

It's also a method which once adopted leaves its fan in a position where its difficult to say or do anything short of calling for revolution and ambulance chasing workers disputes (often seen as a pure activity through the exercise of ascribing all problematic stuff to the 'unions'). That and of course individual activity in the self same unions that as far as we hear about it doesn't seem to connect with the pure politics thrown about online - but apparently its fine to do one thing and say another providing what you say is pure.

WSM#3: On the poster itself I'd nothing to do with its production but as a bit of propaganda I think it hits the mark in the actual context of Dublin in this period. The reality is not one where there the mass debate over whether or not capitalism is flawed but rather whether the crisis is down to overpaid public sector workers and Ireland being ... Read moreuncompetitive due to high wages across the board. We've just seen a massive transfer of wealth from workers to the bankers in the form of NAMA (60 billion) at we are about to see another public sector pay cut to pay for a fraction of that transfer.

Apart from for the purposes of recruitment a 'capitalism is to blame' poster would be pretty irrelevant to the actual discussions in progress (not that I'd be against it but it would be quite different from the purposes of this one). The resistance that is growing is precisely around the idea that those who should pay for the crisis are the 'greedy bankers' who individually have being running off with multi million golden handshakes while workers have taken 10%+ pay cuts. I'd certainly hope that this resistance would generalise into an anti-capitalist one (and much of the detailed material we've published is aimed at encouraging that). But collective resistance on a class basis is what is needed (in just about any form) as an alternative to the dog eat dog / worker v worker that is being promoted across the media with some success. It is quite possible to similtanously engage in encouraging these trends as with this poster and with deepening the understanding of what the fundamental problem is as is the case with much of the material linked to.

Much of the sterility of the ultra left comes from the sort of 'painting into a corner' of these sorts of purity text arguments that makes it very hard to produce material that actually intersects with the debates in society in a readable way. The few moments when the ultra left has had influence have been when conditions (objective circumstances) have created a debate when the arguments about purity are suddenly relevant but we are somewhat far from that at the moment.

WSM#3: JK - 11 months later I replied to your last post over on ABC

Joseph Kay: WSM#3, firstly I’d like to say this isn’t “anyone but the WSM” nor an “attack on the WSM”. I’ve criticised a poster. I mean, just to put this in perspective. I’m also this critical of any crap propaganda, including stuff from my own organisation.

Secondly, I don’t dispute that the WSM has a much better analysis of the recession than “greedy bankers done it.” That doesn’t mean the phrase isn’t, at best, a very poor choice. I mean ‘say no to cuts’, ‘the rich made this mess let them pay the price’ etc would all work on a similar poster.

The problem is the people who see these posters aren’t reading a decent anarchist-communist analysis of the crisis, they’re reading “greedy bankers.” As weeler’s already said, the problem with that is that the ruling class are scapegoating “greedy bankers” as an exercise in damage limitation (e.g. see http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/search.html?searchPhrase=%22greedy+bankers%22 ). ‘A little confessed evil saves a lot of hidden evil.’... Read more

Thus the aspirant leadership of ideas should not be playing along with the ‘bad apples’ but saying the hole barrel is rotten. I take your point that the Irish bourgeoisie seems to be taking the line of blaming ‘greedy public sector workers’ much more so than here – but I think it’s mistaken to respond by saying they’ve got the wrong scapegoat.

Leadership means leading, not following. The argument about ‘where the debate is at’ seems like populism. I’m sure you’ve read your Chomsky; *every* debate is always framed within limits acceptable to capitalism. The point is to expose those limits as false and offering workers nothing.

Sure, that’s harder to do in a slogan than an article, but like I say, ‘make the rich pay for their crisis – say no to cuts!’ or something would still express that without reinforcing one of the major bourgeois canards around the crisis.

As for “the methodology here is that of the sparts”, “doing nothing short of calling for revolution and ambulance chasing workers disputes”, “doing one thing and say another” etc, I’m sure you’re familiar with the ad hominem fallacy; even if I’m the most useless anarchist in the world that doesn’t improve the “greedy bankers” poster one bit.

You’re trying to paint the social democratic politics of the poster as the inevitable result of pragmatic engagement in the real world that ‘internet purists’ would never understand. This is the same old fallacy you trotted out a year ago – and even if we indulge the idea my political/practical failings are anything but an irrelevant distraction it’s bollocks because I’m actually involved in one of the most local anarchist groups in the UK, we produce lots of propaganda, are involved in various struggles and so on. Notice I don’t ask ‘what are you doing?’, because it’s irrelevant.

I’m not going to get into cock-waving, but I simply don’t recognise any of your characterisation. We’ve been very active lately in a range of disputes that go beyond simply ‘ambulance chasing’ (as you so derogotarily term supporting workers in struggle) - including working inside and outside the unions for joint strike action over public sector pay (which is being vigorously opposed by Unison above branch level).

This is in no way contradictory to arguing that the trade unions will oppose such action – it’s actually happening in our workplaces and union branches! Like literally it’s the opposite of detached purist theorising…

I’ll check ABC when I get the chance, I’m meant to be helping lay out the new Catalyst rather than arguing on the internet (it’s out for the London Bookfair – I’d be interested if you find it ‘sterile’, ‘ultra-left’ and ‘unreadable’ –any criticisms gratefully received).

WMS#3: IMHO posters, stickers and in some cases leaflets should often be populist as they cannot present anything approaching a full analysis. They should reflect what people are thinking because the 'result' your hoping for is that someone will go 'hey that's what I think, I must look into that more/go to that event' etc. I simply don't believe in the concept of a poster that someone will see and go 'wow that changed my world view' except in the most exceptional circumstances (and where you can design such a poster its worthwhile).

Huge amounts of anarchist posters / stickers / leaflets only speak to other anarchists / lefties and unless there purpose is recruitment (which is seldom the case as anarchists tend to fear recruitment) are basically a waste of space and time. The amusing thing here is that I think you'd actually recognise this in relation to someone spray painting 'Smash the State' for instance.

BTW my bit on methodology isn't an ad honieum its a criticism of the methodlogy which I reckon leads to the sort of counter productive sterile purist 'outrage' we see on this thread. In other words you don't use these methods because your a 'bad militant' (that would be an ad honeum), the logic of these methods make you a 'bad militant' (thats not an an ad honeum).... Read more

As an aside telling me what the UK government is doing or saying is pretty irrelevant when it comes to a poster that is in Dublin. Our government is very much more in the pocket of the banker / speculator faction of the capitalist class then yours as evidenced by the 60 billon wealth transfer we have just seen to that faction of the class.

Your experience of what 'the unions' are doing in relation to public sector pay is different to mine (this could be a genuine difference of circumstances or down to ideological blinkers). Mine is that 'the unions' are not speaking with a single voice either internally or between unions, that there are factions pushing for action and fractions pushing against. Even back in march we had one union going out on its own in a one day strike. On the other hand workers are also divided with a significant number not wanting action either out of fear or ideology. I note even you qualify you comment with 'above branch level' suggesting thing may be a little more complex then 'the unions' V 'the workers'.

The "Anyone But the WSM' comment comes from long observation of the way you guys love to seize on all sorts or really quite minor stuff and repeat it ad nusieum while failing to actually engage honestly with what we say at any level. Your by far the best of the bunch in that unlike Jack for instance you at least construct an argument but your still carried along by the same atmosphere. It's why I seldom find it worthwhile to engage with such criticism.

Jack: "I note even you qualify you comment with 'above branch level' suggesting thing may be a little more complex then 'the unions' V 'the workers'."

Well luckily, you're not arguing with the ICC, since no one here has an Outside and Against / Unions against the working class position. Of course there are differences between and within the unions, and... Read more of course at different times the actions of unions is different. It's absurdly dishonest of you to try and fold all criticism of unions into one big "anti-union" position made up of the ICC, AF, Wildcat, libcom and the CBI.

Of course, this is all an aside, and has little do do with these posters being shit.

WSM#3: I don't believe I mentioned the ICC, your the one bringing them up and drawing the comparison. AFAIK they are against any involvement in 'the unions' which I'd have thought was rather obviously a different position again although I agree they use some of the same rhetorical devices.

Jack: You said " I note even you qualify you comment with 'above branch level' suggesting thing may be a little more complex then 'the unions' V 'the workers'." which implies we hold a "the unions' V 'the workers" position, ie. the ICC/"Outside and Against the Unions" position. It was conflating our more nuanced position on unions with a mental "unions vs the working class" one to discredit it by association.

Joseph Kay: WSM#3, on populism this really is a question of how propaganda works. As per ‘the propaganda model’, the politics is between the lines. In the case of “greedy bankers” this reinforces the view that the problem with capitalism is a few bad apples (again, I acknowledge the centrality of a particularly marked speculative bubble in the severity of the Irish economic downturn, that isn’t the point).

With something like ‘say no to cuts – make the rich pay for their crisis’ the implication is the interests of the working class and the ruling class have nothing in common, the problem is the rich per se (as a populist euphemism for the bourgeoisie) and not a few bad apples. It’s not a case of ‘essay length analysis’ versus ‘populist slogan’, but of ensuring slogans we use reflect anarchist/communist assumptions not social democratic ones.

I think it’s laudable you reject the ghetto-oriented propaganda of many anarchists and aim at the wider class. My point is we should try to do so in such a way that doesn’t simply echo bourgeois canards. If you think anything I or SolFed has produced falls into the ‘sterile, ultra-left, unreadable pure theory’ category then link to it, if not please stop amalgamating us in with mentals like the sparts.... Read more

“I note even you qualify you comment with 'above branch level' suggesting thing may be a little more complex then 'the unions' V 'the workers'.”

PRECISELY, you note that my actual viewpoint is not the straw man of your own creation. Of course the nuances or otherwise of my criticisms of trade unions have precisely nothing to do with the “greedy bankers” posters.

“The "Anyone But the WSM' comment comes from long observation of the way you guys love to seize on all sorts or really quite minor stuff and repeat it ad nusieum while failing to actually engage honestly with what we say at any level.”

Right ok, but it’s not just the WSM that get criticised – although it’s understandable if you only pay attention when it’s aimed at you, creating to a false impression. Just a few months ago a Catalyst headline – ‘Decent jobs for decent workers’ - was being criticised for its dodgy political assumptions, much like the thrust of the criticism of ‘greedy bankers.’ Jack held his hands up and admitted it was a jokey place-holding headline that should have never have made it into print. If we’d have closed ranks and denied any problem we’d have gone from a situation of an understandable occasional lapse to a bit of a joke as an organisation – like happened to the IWW over the MSPs stuff. We fuck up, we learn from it, shit happens. It’s not a violation of theoretical and tactical unity to screw up now and then.

WSM#3: I don't get the 'few bad apples' argument here unless your doing a 'you said greedy bankers so you must think there are non greedy bankers' spartism. You may be referring to what is happening in the UK, I haven't been following what your gov has been up to in any detail but from what you post above its quite possible the bad apple argument is one they are using?

The left hand side of the poster actually says ‘say no to cuts – make the rich pay for their crisis’ if you read that far. So even if you are pulling that spartism above it only works if you ignore the remainder of the (very short) text (which of course is exactly the sort of thing they do).

It would obviously be easy for me to retreat into 'oh this is just one branch' blah blah blah excusism but I actually don't see the problems you see here. I think you only see these (and in particular only get that excited over them) because this poster is being attributed to the WSM so it becomes an opportunity for the same old crowd to trot out the same old stuff. For me its an OK poster in the context we are in (its all over my neighboorhood too)... Read more

On the union thing I may be guilty of reading more into your post then what was there - but I do find the normal ultra left rhetoric of 'the unions' holding 'the workers' back to be a poor description of reality and you seemed to be saying something along those lines. My branch official normally has to reassure assemblies that the union doesn't want a strike and will try and avoid one whenever we move towards a strike ballot. Maybe that is not the case in your workplace though as on re-reading it you may well be just describing local reality rather than laying down an ideological truism .

Joseph Kay: WSM#3 if you genuinely don't get the problem with "greedy bankers" please see weeler's very first post on this thread which summarises it. I can only reiterate if this was coming from the AF, SolFed, the Socialist Party or whoever my criticism would be the same. In fact we had this row with some local Trots about a year ago when they tried to ... Read moreorganise a 'populist' demo (attended by about 9 people, but still). And no, i'm not saying you *are* trots.

I think the only group that has a blanket 'the unions hold the workers back' type position is the ICC, and even they don't argue for workers to leave the unions, only ban their members from joining them.

My position, which is approximately that of SolFed and the libcom group is that activity within the unions on a lot of bread and butter stuff is basically essential but in the course of struggles both sectional trade divisions and bureaucratic inertia (i.e. the trade union form of organisation) become barriers to be overcome. As far as i'm aware that's essentially the position of the AF too.

weeler: Our WSM right or wrong!

Steven.: I honestly thought weeler knocked up those posters as a joke.

weeler: "Far from being some sort of mistake or mismanagement, this cycle of insecurity is the natural cycle of capitalism. It is part and parcel of the system, and one more good reason for getting rid of it."

Here is a link to the website I found this on - www.wsm.ie

WSM#3: Yea which sort of makes my point poster -> website -> more complex argument which doesn't really work for a poster. It is quite possible (as is the case) to have a cycle of crisis with each crisis being triggered by a particular aspect of the system, in the historical sense those recessions triggered by 'greedy bankers' tend to be the deepest and ... Read morelongest. The sort of logic you lot are using is not far off refusing to demand a pay rise for fear of implying capitalism can deliver on what we need etc or a whole load of similar errors the left has made historically ('after Hitler us' to skirt Godwin's law).

Just about any slogan that is liable to resonate can be accused of being reformist (indeed outside of revolutionary times it pretty much needs to be). 'Stop the War', 'En refueling at Shannon,' 'Don't Pay the Poll Tax', even 'Tax the rich' are all reformist slogans that capitalism can (and indeed in some of those cases has) delivered on. The only thing special about this case is that its connected with the WSM, hence the over the top reaction from you lot.

weeler: Your posters dont link to your website though, and if it did that statement still contradicts the politics of your poster.

weeler: this thread has become a blog on libcom - http://libcom.org/blog/pragmatism-ideology-11102009

and a meme on libcommunity.

Joseph Kay: WSM#3, 'Stop the War', 'End refueling at Shannon,' 'Don't Pay the Poll Tax' are all clear statements of what we want to happen and what we should do. They're good slogans. You can't bunch them with 'Tax the Rich' which is a social democratic slogan saying how capitalists should manage capitalism.

a better analogy to "greedy bankers" would be "not in my name", which is full of dodgy assumptions and doesn't even say what we want to do, which is 'stop the war.' this isn't even about 'revolutionary' versus 'reformist' slogans, that's a false dichotomy. it's about putting forward social democratic ideas or putting forward anarchist/communist ones. you know, "Our role is to make anarchist ideas the leading ideas..."

The poster used 29 words and a url. as an example, here's 25 words that put forward anarchist/communist politics instead of social democratic ones:... Read more

"BOOM and BUST is the natural cycle of capitalism. Why should the working class pay for capitalism’s crisis? Say no to cuts; Strike, Organise, Occupy!"

if you don't want to use the word 'captialism', here's 29 words;

"BOOM and BUST is the natural economic cycle. The economy doesn’t exist to serve our needs, we exist to serve its. Why should workers pay for the bosses’ crisis?"

...and so on.

WSM#3: My argument isn't that you can't come with with 25 word posters it's that they don't achieve anything because they are abstract repetition of left mantas that have a similar level of relevance to 'smash the state' etc

There is a real political difference here too, I think the 'managing capitalism' argument is grossly over used. You assume a level ... Read moreif class consciousness that is nowhere close to existence in this country at least. If your arguing against public sector pay cuts people want to know where the money is going to come from because they fear an economic meltdown and all that means in terms of mass unemployment, poverty and migration. Even significant numers of PS workers are simply resigned to accepting the next round of pay cuts because they believe there is no alternative. Not taking on that argument is setting yourself up for failure and therefore carries the assumption that someone else will do it for you.

weeler: "abstract repetition of left mantas"

Is this a joke?

Pointing out the nature of capitalism and calling for workers to organise to move beyond that is not a "failure", failure is an organisation of 60 people not noticing that their posters dont contain any of their politics and then trying to retrospectively add politics to them.

Steven.: I love how a brief slogan which isn't social democratic is "left mantra", but a brief slogan which is left-wing social democratic and has a massive circled A on it is raising class consciousness for the average man on the street.

I can't understand how you lot don't just admit you fucked up. Presumably because not enough of the membership actually has a decent understanding of capitalism enough to realise those politics are flawed.

Joseph Kay: WSM#3, this is getting ridiculous. You're saying "Strike, Organise, Occupy!" is "abstract repetition of left mantras" but "make the super-rich pay!" isn't. this is simply wrong.

as you are well aware, workers have been striking, organising and occupying all over the place in response to the crisis, including in Dublin and Belfast. this is a ... Read moreconcrete practice that anarchists/communists should look to encourage.

by contrast, you know full-well the only thing that would force "the super-rich" to pay for the crisis is a united, militant working class. in the absence of such, "make the super-rich pay"' is an abstract mantra par excelence.

Joseph Kay: as to the real political difference re managing capitalism, yes there is. on this thread i've gone from:

1. no way, weeler's making it up the WSM aren't that bad, to;
2. well, everyone fucks up once in a while, shit slips through, to;
3. no actually prominent WSM members are actually defending this shit and the arguments in defence of it actually argue against things like urging workers to strike, organise and occupy on the grounds that it's 'abstract.' ffs.... Read more

So real the political difference here is between anarchist/communist politics and social democratic ones. "Not taking on that argument is setting yourself up for failure and therefore carries the assumption that someone else will do it for you" Is the social democratic argument in a nutshell; 'if we don't propose suitable scapegoats to save capital's blushes and put forward an alternative way to manage capitalism then the Trots will beat us to it'.

this is wrong on three counts:

1) the state and capital cannot be managed in our interests. if you disagree, please have the decency to stop calling yourself an anarchist-communist.

2) even when concessions are made (such as taxing corporate profits), this is because the working class is strong enough to force capital to carry the cost (and even then they'll constantly try and pass it back to restore the rate of profit, or invest elsewhere). social democrats are interested in making/proposing state policy, anarchists/communists are interested in class struggle.

3) The logic of "where the money is going to come from" is never ending. what if someone - quite rightly - calls you on the fact "make the super-rich pay!" is not a thought-through counter-budget. Are you compelled to go all the way through and propose 'anarchist' fiscal and monetary policies? if not, why not? If you don't, someone else will.

It's fine to point out the ruling class can't plead poverty; a simple wealth distribution stat would make that point (90% of the wealth is owned by 10% of the population; we won't pay with cuts!' or whatever) without getting into "where the money is going to come from" as if we give a shit as long as it's not from us.

And this is the thing; i've spent hours on the streets collecting for occupying workers recently, had loads of conversations with people and nobody has once said 'ah, but who's going to pay to meet their demands.' people don't give a shit. so the elephant in the room here is that you've dropped your politics for no discernable gain; it's a faux populism based on what you *imagine* is popular.

seriously if you think this stuff works just join the socialist party, they've been doing it a lot longer and demonstrated the limits of such 'realistic' politics better than any argument i can make.

i ffs, "Our role is to make anarchist ideas the leading ideas"... by dropping anarchist ideas? the mind boggles.

WSM#3: As it seems not to be clear as we were talking about the 'greedy bankers' bit and not the rest the abstract slogan I referred to was the 'BOOM and BUST is the natural cycle of capitalism' rather than the rest of it. I feel this should have been obvious from the context of what I was saying and hope this misunderstanding is not simply a school boy debating trick.

As to the rest of JK's post its based on a faulty assumption that I'm worried about the trots beating us to 'it' rather than us being relevant beyond the level of abstract capitalism is bad slogans. Which is a pity as the argument about 'managing capitalism' is a potentially interested one if entered into on an honest basis. It's clear to me that the workers movement has forced rather a lot of concessions from capitalism over the decades, quite why we might think that has stopped (or can only happen under 'pure' slogans) I'm not sure.

All I can say I don't have any problem with demanding that the rich be made to pay as a mobilising slogan and when questioned follow up with some obvious ways this could happen. I find the idea that this = social democracy as laughable but its a mantra you guys repeat a lot so you obviously believe it. It does seem to be an old ultra theme but one I'm not aware of ever having got an echo outside of revolutionary times - the stopped clock being right twice a day effect.... Read more

JK the need to answer the 'where is the money to come from' question is not based on my imagination but my experience of making arguments in work both in terms of union meetings and lunchtime conversations. I'm not sure why you are talking about collecting for workers in occupation on the streets as that is far from an identical circumstance to a public sector wage cuts so I'll repeat what I actually said
"You assume a level of class consciousness that is nowhere close to existence in this country at least. If your arguing against public sector pay cuts people want to know where the money is going to come from because they fear an economic meltdown and all that means in terms of mass unemployment, poverty and migration. Even significant numbers of PS workers are simply resigned to accepting the next round of pay cuts because they believe there is no alternative. Not taking on that argument is setting yourself up for failure and therefore carries the assumption that someone else will do it for you."

Anyone in the south (even Wheeler) should be able to confirm that wage and other cuts are being sold and accepted by sections of the working class not directly effected on the basis that there is no alternative. We might wish that this was not the case, that we existed in a time of perfect contradiction free class consiousness where the idea that all workers should stick together was powerful enough to be a reality. That's not where things are at, rather the fear of economic meltdown leads to workers arguing for the axe to fall on other workers rather then themselves.

Come to think of it wheeler were you not saying this was your exact situation in work - you've been at the cutting edge of a load of cuts in the last months, what arguments have worked for you? To me what I'm saying is blindingly obvious based not only on my experience but on just about everyone I know who has been active around this.

Joseph Kay: ffs, so we're back to charges of 'old ultra-left' 'abstract' "'stopped clock' etc. just diagnose an infantile disorder and be done with it. do you not realise the irony that these are in fact empty, abstract mantras in lieu of argument?

so "boom and bust" is abstract and "greedy bankers" isn't? precisely when capitalism is in crisis, we shouldn't criticise the whole system but scapegoat some bad apples because 'that's where class concsiousness is at.' seriously this is embarassing.

like you're not even arguing against reality, i wasn't arguing for posters saying 'strike, organise, occupy!' before workers started striking, organising and occupying in respose the crisis, so the 'broken clock' analogy is yet another contentless mantra.... Read more... Read more

you can argue against public sector workers paying for the crisis without coming up with alternative fiscal policies. simply pointing out they had no problem accumulating the gains of the boom so it's not our responsibility to suffer the pain of the bust. you know, a basic, class struggle position. (i lost my job because of the recession, to save my boss £19k/year when the company of 40 employees paid out £300k in dividends to 3 directors. its sufficient to point out their pleas of poverty are bullshit without producing alternative business plans for them - which incidentally i was asked to do to save my job).

as soon as you get dragged into the terrain of fiscal policy and off the terrain of direct action and class struggle you've already lost the argument, because capitalism cannot be managed in our interests. that's not an abstract argument, you make the point yourself; if the state doesn't attack public sector workers, it has to balance the books somehow with privatisations, cuts elsewhere etc.

the only way the rich will pay is if we force it, so our terrain isn't policy but struggle. how they do it is none of our concern. i couldn't give a fuck if they take it from the military budget, add a top tier to income tax, increase corporate taxes or nationalise the Corrib.

without class struggle, none of these things will happen and if they miraculously did they'd be turned against the working class - such as FDI going elsewhere, costing jobs; bosses increasing the rate of exploitation to make up for increased taxes and so on. with class struggle, the particular fiscal policies are irrelevant since we sure as hell ain't gonna pay.

*braces for the renewed charges of irrelevant ultra-leftist fantasy mantra broken clockery*

Steven.: I think that's where some of the problem comes from - wanting to appear to be influential.

Like the Sun switching to Labour, who were always going to win, and saying "it was the Sun what won it".

If the WSM put forward anarchist ideas, they are not generally popular, so they will rightly look like they are not leading anything.... Read more

But if you say things that lots of people think (rightly or wrongly) anyway, then perhaps you can delude yourself into thinking that you have influenced or "led" them in some way.

I think the real irony is that these other ideas are actually only more popular amongst the activist left, as opposed to the population as a whole, but seeing as this is the milieu which the WSM exist in it is understandable that they could conflate the two.

WSM#3: (My post above was in response to Josephs two posts ago)

In response to WSM#3, who seems to be taking a detour from the discussion, what "wins" arguments with co-workers about resisting cuts is not pointing out where extra money is, but it's about those co-workers actually having the confidence and ability to organise themselves to actually resist the cuts.

WSM#3: JK again you are not comparing like with like. Your private sector boss did not pay your wages out of funds that mostly came directly from the pay packets of all workers. He made a profit in the sense that schools, hospitals, etc don't (well at least not the public ones).

The situation with the Irish economy is that it is somewhere in the region of 20 billion in the red. This incidentally is largely due to the collapse of the property boom fueled by the 'greedy bankers'. This means Irish workers are quite susceptable to the argument that the 20 billion hole has to be filled or the economy will collapse further and that one way of filling it is to slash public sector wages and conditions.

I've explained this context several time on the thread, quite why you repeatedly on throwing out personal experience comparisons that have no relation to the context these posters were produced in I have no idea.... Read more

Steven. your post is based on your imagined fantasy, like the rest of what you post there is nothing in it to reply to.

WSM#3: Wow Steven. actually makes a real point...

The counter point is that the level of offensive is such that this is not about one workplace or even one sector having the ability to reverse it. Public sector workers will be defeated unless they can convince private sector workers they share a common set of interests. Beyond that as I've already said a... Read more good proportion of PS workers have internalised the 'there is no other choice' rhetoric - the idea that what is now heading towards a 15-20% total cut is better than an economic collapse and no job is gaining traction unfortuantely.

WSM#3:BTW you seem to find it at least as annoying being referred to as an ultra and having various ultra positions ascribed to you as I find being called a trot or social democrat and having those positions ascribed to me. If you want to get out of that bind I'd suggest laying off with such rhetoric and arguing stuff from first principles in which case I'll do the same.

Joseph Kay: "The situation with the Irish economy is that it is somewhere in the region of 20 billion in the red. This incidentally is largely due to the collapse of the property boom fueled by the 'greedy bankers'. This means Irish workers are quite susceptable to the argument that the 20 billion hole has to be filled or the economy will collapse further and that one way of filling it is to slash public sector wages and conditions."

and the response to that isn't to propose an alternative fiscal policy, it's to simply point out that their budget is not our problem - as long as these fuckers are earning six figure salaries, driving bentleys and living in massive houses we should treat their pleas of poverty with the utter contempt they deserve; that goes for polticians and their revolving door cousins in business (including banking and property, of course). it is not the job of anarchist-communists to balance the state's books ffs.

like i say, the Irish budget defecit was not *caused* by bankers and speculators. at most, the particular severity of the irish downturn was accentuated by the scale of the finance-property bubble. as weeler said in post #1 ""greedy bankers" are a scapegoat distracting from the fact that this will happen again and again and again."... Read more

of course the irony of all this is that we're not discussing an alternitive fiscal policy proposal by the WSM, but a poster that consists solely of the "abstract lefty mantras" you are so eager to see in your critics. 'no u.'

Joseph Kay: WSM#3, i'm describing your politics as social democratic because they show a striking resemblance. you're describing me as an ultra-left internet spart spouting irrelevant abstract mantras who doesn't even do anythng because that's what you say every time we discuss anything in any context. like i say if we're looking for abstract, a contextual mantras...


"The fundamental difference between social democratic thought and other forms of socialism, such as orthodox Marxism, is a belief in the primacy of political action as opposed to the primacy of economic action"... Read more

everything you're arguing for is political action (state policy; tax them, nationalise that, balance the books like this) to the extent of opposing the advocacy of economic action ('strike, organise, occupy!'). i'm not using it as a slur, i'm using a political term to describe a political position. like i say i honestly thought these posters were a spoof, the subsequent argument has left me pretty gobsmacked. i mean we work pretty closely with the local SP on a lot of things, and they're all arguing for cross-union strikes and occupations at the moment, not getting dragged into debates on fiscal policy - and they're a bloody political party who run for election and so do need to have an alternative fiscal policy since they aspire to be in a position to implement it.

WSM#3: to me your response isn't going to convince anyone who isn't some manner of leftie (and actually won't even convince many lefties in this climate). As I've said above it presupposes a level of class consiouness that simply doesn't exist. Anyway this is just going round in circles with you making the same point and me making the same reply over and over.

Joseph Kay: actually, it's rarely going to convince a lefty (as this thread shows) because they're ideolgically committed to leftism. but such views aren't actually very widespread amongst woorkers outside of social democrat-dominated union branches and the activist/lefty milieu - which is why i assume these posters haven't "united the working class" as one of your comrades derided me for not doing earlier in the thread.

WSM#3: err I'm obviously arguing on where we disagree - I can't believe your screaming dishonesty in that last post. Can I also remind you once more this is one poster - I've already pointed you at the archive of other material published. Once more your dishonesty is quite hard to take and makes this whole conversation a little pointless beyond whoever else is still reading this at this point.

WSM#3: workers where and when? In Brighton? In Dublin? In 2009? In 1922? This sort of generalisation as if conditions were the same everywhere and everytime is exactly what I disagree with. Anyway lunchtime!

Joseph Kay: i'm talking about workers at the moment in my experience in the UK and from talking to comrades in ireland, you know, the context of these posters in this discussion. why would i be talking about 1922? wtf?

ffs WSM#3 look in the mirror. I'm being dishonest...

"of course the irony of all this is that we're not discussing an alternitive fiscal policy proposal by the WSM, but a poster" - JK... Read more

"I can't believe your screaming dishonesty in that last post. Can I also remind you once more this is one poster" - AF

and i'm the one spouting lefty mantras when i criticise posters blaming "greedy bankers" and screaming "make the super-rich pay!"

this really is impossible.

Choccy: I've been following this since it started.
i think this is where the WSM attempts at populism are falling foul.
"Can I also remind you once more this is one poster - I've already pointed you at the archive of other material published."
Precisely the problem.
When the single most visible piece of propaganda you've done contains close to zero anarchist politics then effectively you're saying 'we're embarrassed to discuss our own politics'.... Read more
This is not to say you have to run around sounding like a mental, however most of us have managed to do effective solidarity work and/or community/workplace organising without sound like mentals, but also without abandoning our politics in some pathetic attempt to 'win' people over.

WSM should really focus on that sort of stuff right now. Since we're in probably the highest point of class struggle certainly in my adult life, it's embarrassing how irrelevant and mental these posters make the WSM sound and how quickly you're haemorraging members.

weeler: he second worst point about the posters, after the opening line is that they look really anarchist - its like social democracy did anarchist drag for halloween.

Perhaps thats what confused the eye when they were passed at branch level.

I would be interested to know, will find out either way I am sure if the posters were one persons initiative... Read more, a branch initiative, passed at delegate council or unlikely passed at National Conference. I would assume it was the initiative of one or two members who got funding at branch and very few people saw the slogan?

Joseph Kay: i've just checked the WSM's website, and the top five news stories are:

- The employers’ offensive - Striking back gets results
- Interview with Thomas Cook worker on occupation of Dublin office
- ‘Scabs Out. Dockers In’: Mass Trespass at MTL shows strength of support for striking workers... Read more
- Thomas Cooke workers show the way - Don’t be bullied by state or bosses
- A Victory for the Thomas Cook Workers is a Victory for Us All

those politics simply don't come accross in the poster, and i've suggest ways in which with a similar number of words the could.

Alan: apart from anything else, they look like they were done in MS paint by a meth head.

WSM#3: wow what weirdness, particularly Choccy all the way from the single most visible down to haemorraging. Obviously we have a different sense of reality.

That aside I decided to check put this theory that workers don't need alternative sources of funding pointing to in relation to public sector cuts by checking with my fellow workers at lunch time ... Read morewith a summary of the argument. I really tried hard to make that as impartial as I could. As I expected they literally thought your argument was mental, indeed so mental that they were clearly wondering what sort of nut I was to waste my time arguing the fucking obvious.

As I type this the guy who shares the office with me literally just asked me across the table if he'd understood the discussion correctly and then expressed the opinion that whoever I was arguing with was crazy. Now I don't think this bunch were in any way untypical although the sample size of 5 is.pretty.small.

weeler: I just asked my whole office if they think these posters are shite and lacking analysis, they all said yeh and then they gave me a kings chair around the building and no we are eating a big cake...

WSM#3: yeah except in my case its actually true

weeler: Definitely true, and relevant to the discussion.

WSM#3: of course its relevant, haven't you been reading the thread. That aside why not actually do what you claim to have done, summarise the discussion in as neutral a way as you can and see what the people you work with make of it.

Choccy: HAHA fucking priceless, someone from WSM arguing that they aren't mental and are definitely in-touch with 'ordinary people'
Wise the fuck up.
Everyone is pissing themselves at this shit.
Seriously mate, the WSM are fucked if this is your strategy for broadening class struggle ideas.

Jack: Funny, because when we discussed the Tory propsed public sector pay freeze in our office last week, no one had any problem whatsoever with "not our problem how they pay for it - they find a way for their own pet projects, so if we force them they can find a way to do this", whereas the social worker who suggested taxing the rich was met with a few people saying it was unrealistic.

Of course, the difference is my anecdote actually happened.

WSM#3: You calling me a liar Jack?

Choccy: His point is that anecdotal bollocks is hardly a defense of anything.
Next you'll think it's credible that the BNP when they're going door-to-door are FULL DEFENSIBLE because 'lot's of people on the doorsteps said they agreed with us'
This is getting really embarrassing WSM#3.

Jack: I'm saying I highly doubt you completely and objectively recounted the arguments. You may well have tried to, I have no clue. But given on this very thread you've presented our views (eg on unions) in a factually incorrect manner, I just don't have really think you did a great job here - especially as your position is presumably one you're ... Read moreattempting to foster amongst your workmates and presumably have been pushing for a while - alongside half the media and capitalist class as JK has already pointed out.

Jack: And to be honest, if you did recount the arguments of a facebook row on one of weelers photos to your workmates in order to back up your position, that's at best a tad odd.

Choccy: Exactly, what sort of fucking oddballs shows their workmates an 85-comment facebook photo thread and thinks they are 'in touch' with reality?

Joseph Kay: fwiw, earlier in the thread WSM#3 said the fact the Daily Mail and Gordon Brown are united in condemning "greedy bankers" didn't mean it was the bourgeois canard of choice in Ireland. So i checked. This gem in particular stood out:


but there's also people arguing that Irelands "greedy bankers" prove the need for a truly global marketplace (!?) through to leftist electoralists winning council seats on a “Tax the Greedy Not the Needy” platform. it really does appear to be the rhetoric of choice across the bourgeois political spectrum in Ireland too. ... Read more

"Our role is to make anarchist ideas the leading ideas..."

Choccy: here is an example of WSM#3 being 'in touch' with 'ordinary people':

WSMer: 'workmate, here is a 85-comment argument over a facebook photo. do you agree with this argument?'
workmate: 'eh what?
other workmate: 'psst, steve, just say yes to shut him up'... Read more
workmate: 'eh yes'
WSMer: 'see! i knew i wasn't mental!'

weeler: "GREEDY bankers should be locked up behind bars, according to respected economist David McWilliams."


Oct 13 2009 18:12

Sounds like you guys are gonna start kneecapping each other soon. Interesting read, thanks for sharing by the way just wanted to say that their is a name which aint been amended -

"apart from anything else, they look like they were done in MS paint by a meth head.

WSM#3: wow what weirdness, particularly ***** all the way from the single most visible down to haemorraging. Obviously we have a different sense of reality."

I have ***** it out, dont know if you want to too in article.

Oct 13 2009 19:14

edit done, cheers Allybaba

Oct 13 2009 21:58

The WSM are right and given that it will be what everyone in Northern Ireland will be talking about and therefore the real cause of cut backs across Stormont run departments Organise! have recongised the error of our ways and produced the following poster:

Oct 13 2009 22:03

Have you ever noticed the if you add 2 letters to STORMONT you get STORMFRONT?

Oct 13 2009 22:28

Very informative. Thank you. I'm trying to put this nicely . . . have the WSM always had such contradictory politics or is it a more recent development? Or does this not represent the WSM as a whole? Perhaps the tactical and theoretical unity isn't so uh united?

Oct 14 2009 09:01

There politics are pretty sound no? I mean apart from the nationalisation thingy and the crap poster.

Joseph Kay
Oct 14 2009 09:39

the WSM's policy papers can be found here to form your own opinion.

Personally i think they're confused on a number of issues, particularly their strategy of democratising the unions and national liberation, which they oppose, but kinda support, but only support the workers and oppose the nationalist content. in practice i remember having arguments with one WSMer who condemned me for not supporting 'the iraqi resistance' and argued that was consistent with the position paper. i think the position paper's better than that, but there are points which can be read that way.

Oct 14 2009 09:56

cheers jk

Joseph Kay
Oct 14 2009 11:36
weeler wrote:
I'm a famous!

when WSM#3's the Irish minster of finance in a social democratic coalition government and i've sold out and joined the Tory Party, historians of anarchism will ask 'who was this weeler, defender of the proletarian position?'

Oct 14 2009 11:43

I really don't see what the problem with the WSM poster is?

has libcom devolved into a purist sect of 5 people who know the true line?

p.s. greedy bankers did do the crisis, even if capitalism facilitated them/necessitated their actions...

Joseph Kay
Oct 14 2009 11:48

the problem with the poster is that despite a red and black flag and a big circle-A, it doesn't contain anarchist-communist politics.

weeler wrote:
Recessions are inherent in the boom bust cycle of capital, "greedy bankers" are a scapegoat distracting from the fact that this will happen again and again and again. Blaming them implies you could have a nicer capitalism with good bankers, this is social democracy at best.

tbh though it's not so much the poster, i mean we all fuck up from time to time, but the defence of it; including arguing against calling for strikes and occupations as 'leftist mantras' (as opposed to the poster, which doesn't contain any leftist mantras at all).

Joseph Kay
Oct 14 2009 11:52
Gordon Brown on bankers wrote:
[I'm] angry at irresponsible behaviour (…) where there is excessive and irresponsible risk-taking, that has got to be punished.


herald.ie wrote:
GREEDY bankers should be locked up behind bars, according to respected economist David McWilliams.


the WSM wrote:
GREEDY Bankers and profiteers are responisible for recession (...) MAKE THE SUPER-RICH PAY!